NBA INTERIM REPORT
“The Celtics have some things to worry about when/if they make the playoffs.”
Halfway through the NBA season, it’s time to evaluate the true contenders for the title and the pretenders who should just be happy to make the playoffs.
1. Miami Heat (27-7) – The Miami Heat are playing some of the best basketball we’ve seen since they were formed last year. The team is 1st in the league in points per game and are middle of the pack in points per game allowed. However they are also tied for 8th in the league in free throws attempted which shows that they’re clearly being aggressive and attacking the basket. Barring injuries the Heat have to be the favorite to win the title without question.
Bottom Line: DESPITE DEBATES ON WHETHER “LEBRON CAN CLOSE”, THE TRUTH IS THAT LEBRON MIGHT NOT HAVE TO. THE ROLE PLAYERS THAT THE HEAT HAVE ASSEMBLED IN ADDITION TO WADE AND BOSH SHOULD BE ABLE TO LIGHTEN THE LOAD IN THE CLOSING MINUTES AS THE TEAM GROWS FROM THEIR LOSS IN LAST YEARS FINALS AND USE THAT WISDOM TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP.
2. Chicago Bulls (27-8) – If someone were to approach me prior to this season and ask what the Bulls record would be at the All Star break if Derrick Rose had missed 10 games because of back problems, I would have bet my salary they wouldn’t be in the top 4 seeds (note to self: stay away from Vegas). The Bulls have played some fantastic basketball thus far with Luol Deng and Carlos “Kiwi” Boozer stepping up.
Bottom Line: THE TEAM RANKS 2ND IN TEAM DEFENSE AND 2ND IN TEAM REBOUNDING AVERGING 5 MORE REBOUNDS PER GAME THAN THEIR OPPONENTS. THE QUESTION COME PLAYOFF TIME IS WHO IS GOING TO STEP UP AND HELP DERRICK ROSE AT THE END OF GAMES?
3. Indiana Pacers (21-12) – Also in the “never would have thought they would be so good” category are the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers have been surpassing many people’s expectations this year; through g
ood defense, ranking 9th in the league in points per game allowed, and good rebounding, where they rank 4th in the league. The addition of David West added interior toughness along side Roy Hibbert. They have also seen growth in their future franchise player Paul George.
Bottom Line: THE QUESTION ABOUT THE PACERS WILL BE CAN THEY MAINTAIN THIS PACE FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON. AND IF THEY CAN, WILL THEY HAVE A GOOD MATCHUP TO GET HOT AND POTENTIALLY KNOCK OFF ONE OF THE “BIG DOGS” IN THE EAST. THIS LATTER PART OF THE SEASON COULD BE HUGE FOR DANNY GRANGER. IF HE COMES UP SHORT, THE PACERS COULD BE LOOKING TO MOVE THE FAN FAVORITE.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (20-14) – The Philadelphia 76ers are not as hot as they once were this season but they have built a pretty good resume thus far as they rank 1st in points per game allowed. Doug Collins has built a good system that has worked for his personnel, however they have experienced scoring woes as Loius Williams leads the team in points per game at 15.7. The Sixers do move the ball well, ranking 10th in the league in assists per game.
Bottom Line: COACH COLLINS HAS DONE A FANTASTIC JOB TO PREPARE HIS TEAM FOR THIS SEASON. HOWEVER, THE TEAM MUST FIND SOMEONE WHO CAN CREATE HIS OWN SHOT AT THE END OF GAMES. THEY ARE DEFINITELY PLAYING TEAM BASKETBALL, ALMOST TO A FAULT AT TIMES. BUT THEY CERTAINLY WILL BE A DIFFICULT MATCHUP IN THE PLAYOFFS.
5. Orlando Magic (22-13) – Wow. The Orlando Magic. Outside of the rumors about Dwight Howard, the Magic have actually built a formidable team. Their defense has been the key to their succes, ranking 4th in points per game allowed. Stan Van Gundy is doing his best to hold this team together through the many distractions they’ve faced.
Bottom Line: WHILE THE MAGIC COULD BE A TOUGH OUT IN THE PLAYOFFS, THERE IS NO WAY OF KNOWING WHO WILL BE ON THE TEAM COME PLAYOFF TIME. DWIGHT HOWARD IS STILL AT THE CENTER OF WHAT MAKES THE MAGIC A FORMIDABLE TEAM. WHENEVER A MOVE IS MADE, IT CAN NO DOUBT DRAMATICALLY SHIFT THE EASTERN CONFERENCE.
6. Atlanta Hawks (20-14) – The Hawks are one of those teams that are good, but that’s about it. They’re just…. good. No one expects this team to win the East, but if taken lightly they can certainly make a playoff series interesting. The Hawks are another team who’s success starts on defense, as they rank 7th in points per game allowed. Their offense can be hit or miss however, as Joe Johnson and Josh Smith can come up missing in key moments.
Bottom Line: THE HAWKS ARE IN WHAT I LIKE TO CALL, “A BLOW IT UP SITUATION”. WHILE THE TALENT LEVEL IS ABOVE AVERAGE ON THE TEAM, THE CHANCES OF BEATING CHICAGO OR MIAMI ARE SLIM TO NONE. IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY THEY MAY BE COMPETITIVE WITH THE PACERS, HOWEVER NEITHER TEAM IS READY TO GO BEYOND THAT MATCHUP.
7. New York Knicks (17-18) – Knick Fans have been reinvigorated!! The rise of Jeremy Lin has given the team a lift over the last few weeks. This makes the Knicks a wildcard entering the playoffs. The Knicks defense isn’t as bad as some would like to believe, ranking 12th in points per game allowed. Thank you Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are still in the process of incorporating Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, J.R. Smith, and Baron Davis to the lineup while simultaneously giving Jeremy Lin room to grow as an NBA point guard. Sounds like fun for those patient New York fans eh?
Bottom Line: IF THE KNICKS ARE ABLE TO WORK THEIR SYSTEM AROUND THE TALENT THEY HAVE ON PAPER, THIS TEAM IS ACTUALLY A TITLE CONTENDER. ANTHONY AND STOUDEMIRE ARE BOTH TOP 5 AT THEIR POSITION AND THEY NOW HAVE JR SMITH OFF THE BENCH AS AN OUTSTANDING SIXTH MAN OPTION. THE OBJECTIVE NOW FOR MIKE D’ANTONI IS TO CREATE A WAY STOUDEMIRE, WHO IS STILL OWED 81 MILLION OVER THE NEXT 4 YRS WITH HIS BAD KNEES, AND CARMELO TO BE EFFICIENT ON OFFENSE AND LET LIN RUN THE SHOW. THERE IS A TON OF UPSIDE WITH THE KNICKS AND CONGRUENTLY A CHANCE OF EPIC FAILURE. SHOULD BE FUN!
8. Boston Celtics (15-17) – The Boston Celtics are holding on for dear life this season. The Celtics show flashes of their former selves periodically on offense, while they have remained disciplined on defense where they rank 3rd in points per game allowed. The Celtics are still at a crossroads, where they seem to have been for the past 2 years, where they can make a play to get younger and begin the future or keep pushing this group to contend for the title. The fact remains that the team cannot score or rebound and that tends to be a problem when you are trying to win a title. Go figure.
Bottom Line: THE BOTTOM LINE WITH THE CELTICS WILL ALL BE IN THE DRAW THEY HAVE IN THE PLAYOFFS. IT IS PERFECTLY WITHIN THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY THAT THEY CAN PLAY THE PACERS OR 76ERS AND USE THEIR EXPERIENCE IN PLAYOFF BASKETBALL TO OUTFOX THE NEWCOMERS. THE PROBLEM, IS THAT IT IS JUST AS LIKELY THAT ONE OF THOSE TEAMS COULD RUN THE CELTS OFF THE FLOOR WITH FRESH LEGS AND EQUALLY COMPETENT DEFENSES. THE CELTICS AREN’T GETTING BETTER, HOWEVER THEY ARE LIKELY BETTER THAN AN 8th SEED IN THE EAST.
Honorable Mention: Cleveland Cavaliers (13-18) – The Cleveland Cavaliers amazingly are in the 9th place in the East. This is either an indictment on the talent level in the East or a testament to the potential of rookie Kyrie Irving. I will readily admit that I’ve been skeptical of Irving coming into his rookie year, however, you can’t deny that he has been a bright spot on an otherwise dim season for the Cavs. While I don’t see a playoff push in the cards for them, the Cavs look poised to build around their young star and find their place in the playoffs.